Sustainable Livelihoods through community empowerment in Rural Cambodia

In partnership with Live & Learn Cambodia


By building the capacity of women, children and community-based organisations, the project aims to empower communities to sustainably manage local resources and have improved livelihoods in ten villages in Trapeang Roung and Phat Sanday communes, Cambodia.

Phat Sanday Commune (PSD)

PSD has a total population of 5,505 people, 53% female, and 1,158 households residing in 5 floating villages. There are 2,750 children aged 6 -17 years. Illiteracy rates are 23.5% for adults and approximately 20% for children.

Community members rely on fishing as their main source of income but the Tonle Sap Lake ecosystem is under serious threat from deforestation and poor water quality due to faeces and waste directly disposed into the lake. Reduction in fish stock, and issues around water and sanitation are the most pressing issues facing people in PSD.

Community development is restrained by lack of alternative income opportunities, water pollution and poor health due to unsafe sanitation practices. They are also without appropriate and affordable options such as water filters, toilets or other technologies to address the issues.

Trapeang Roung Commune (TPR)

TPR, located in the Southern Cardamoms Mountains, is one of the last remaining wildlife corridors in Asia. Threats to the biodiversity of the region include habitat loss due to illegal logging, wildlife poaching, and fire from slash-and-burn agriculture. 

Low education levels, poverty and lack of employment options are resulting in degradation of the natural environment. Communities require opportunities to generate environmentally sustainable incomes to improve their standard of living.

General background

In both TPR and PSD, low levels of literacy still exist for adults and children, especially in remote communities with poor access to services. In some instances, school buildings are in disrepair, there is a shortage of skilled teachers, and limited job opportunities for youth.

Some communities are unable to access public education due to poverty, limited schools, access and resources. Children from poor families often spend time helping to take care of smaller sibling while parents are away for work. They frequently take on routine household chores and work fishing.

High levels of poverty, low education levels and lack of employment options are resulting in the over- dependence and degradation of the natural environment. It is widely acknowledged that these communities require opportunities to generate environmentally sustainable incomes to increase their standard of living.

Project approach

The project has four high level outcomes:

  1. Community-based groups and women influence change and decision-making in their communities
  2. Communities implement sustainable and resilient livelihoods practices
  3. Target communities improve their WASH practices
  4. Children from remote and vulnerable communities improve their education

The project builds on the self-help model implemented in these communities to date. The project uses 10 Community Based Organizations (CBOs) established in 16/17 to advocate for, and affect change in their communities.

By providing CBO’s with skills and support they are able to form partnerships with local authorities and to influence commune priorities, including how commune funds are spent.

Further, it is intended that these CBO’s will identify opportunities and priorities in their own communities. They are then supported to develop project proposals and apply to Live & Learn for grants that fit within four thematic areas.

  • Set-up sustainable businesses for income generation
  • Works to improve water management, e.g. irrigation, or canal
  • Natural resource management, e.g. Lake conservation to improve fish stocks
  • Innovative agriculture or demonstrations, g. Piloting of short-term rice varieties

The CBO’s include: 2 model farmer groups, 2 business groups, 2 tuition class teacher’s groups (consisting of 16 tuition classes), one Community Based Ecotourism group (CBET), one local governance support group, and 2 federations from both communes that have responsibility for supporting the 16 saving/self-help groups that were established in previous years of the project.

The project continues to build on WASH technology (water filter systems and anaerobic digestion toilets) partially developed – designed, and constructed – in previous years of support, and plans to trial this technology at the household level. This is complemented by some basic WASH education.

Finally, the project addresses a lack of education support for children. Through tuition classes it provides a range of education support from literacy, to life skills and environmental education.

This phase of the project has a renewed focus on empowering women as agents of change in the CBO’s and subsequently in their communities. There is also an emphasis on ensuring that people with disabilities are included in program activities.


For further information on this project please contact Assisi.


Assisi is committed to continuous improvement. By monitoring and evaluating our project work we are able to strengthen our strategic approach and impact.

In 2016 Assisi conducted an independent evaluation of the ‘Sustainable Livelihoods through Community Empowerment’ project. The full evaluation can be found at:  Evaluation report, Cambodia